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Ofsted criticises Religious Education standards

According to the head of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education the UK government should offer more support for Religious Education.

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) is a non-ministerial department of His Majesty’s government. Its role is to make sure that institutions providing education, training and childcare services in England guarantee a high standard for children and students.

Based on the latest Ofsted report, religious education lacks clarity, and it is not suitable for preparing children for adult life in a diverse and multicultural environment. It claims that religious studies give a broad, general idea only and are superficial in most schools. Whenever they try to cover many religions, pupils do not remember much. It also draws attention to the lack of teachers who have proper knowledge of the subject. 

A spokesperson of the Department of Education stated: “Religious education is important in developing young people’s understanding of the values of different faiths which is why it remains compulsory for all pupils at state-funded mainstream schools up to the age of 18. It is for individual schools to plan, organise and deliver their teaching of religious education, which are designed locally to reflect the communities they serve. We provide support for religious education teaching, including offering a £10,000 bursary for trainee teachers, and the Oak National Academy is procuring new materials, which will ensure that high-quality lessons can be available nationwide, benefitting both teachers and pupils.”

Fiona Moss, Chief Executive of  The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) says: “It’s a difficult read, but a clear message to the government is that they need to support this subject. Ten years ago, the Ofsted report clearly identified that the government had to give guidance on what was needed to be taught in Religious Education, which is arranged differently in different areas of the country. It said the government needed to take action and give guidance—and now, ten years later, it’s telling us to do it again. The government needs to do something about this. We, as the Religious Education community, have stepped into that void of neglect over the years, funding research and resources to help schools advance that subject. But the government needs to work with us. There’s not enough space in the timetable for Religious Education. If you dig into this report, particularly in secondary schools, it talks about how school leaders are conflating Religious Education with Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) and other subjects because they don’t have enough space in the timetable. Another problem is we don’t have enough trained specialist teachers.”

According to Deborah Weston OBE, chair of the Religious Education Policy Unit: “We are pleased to see the Ofsted subject report, which recognises the need for high-quality Religious Education for every young person in every school… It rightly highlights that in far too many schools across the country, Religious Education does not fulfil the subject’s potential. Fortunately, many of the factors it identified as enabling high-quality Religious Education can be easily addressed. These include strong teacher subject knowledge, access to professional development, regular time for Religious Education lessons, and a well-organised curriculum. The REPU is working with schools, teachers and the government to support these needs. This May, the REC will launch a curriculum toolkit, which will help schools develop their Religious Education curriculum based on research and good practice.”


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